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Army soldier conned $150K from 25 victims, some in romance scams, feds say

A gavel rests on the judges bench in Carbon County Courtroom #1. (Kevin Mingora/TMC/TNS)

A U.S. soldier was indicted in federal court after authorities say he swindled nearly $150,000 from at least 25 people in romance scams and other schemes.

Innocent N. Ugwu, 24, is now charged with “five counts of wire fraud, five counts of laundering monetary instruments and one count of procurement of citizenship or naturalization unlawfully,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas.

The soldier, born in Nigeria and now based in Fort Riley, Kansas, is accused of running the schemes from July 2019 through January 2021, according to court records.

Authorities say Ugwu enlisted in the Army and applied for U.S. citizenship in 2019. He completed basic training that March and was stationed in Kansas starting in August.

As he served the U.S., Ugwu targeted victims with romance scams, advance fee schemes and other fraudulent tricks, according to an indictment filed in court.

His defense attorney was not made publicly available as of May 26 and could not be reached for comment.

In romance scams, authorities say impostors pose as a “potential romantic partner” on dating sites to trick people into sending money after expressing romantic interest. Advance fee schemes involve promising victims something like a loan, contract or gift of great value in exchange for money.

“However, the targeted individual actually receives little or nothing in return,” officials said.

Ugwu is also accused of providing false information on his citizenship application and in his interview for U.S. citizenship, according to court records. He completed the application in March 2019, but he was allowed to make updates in January 2020.

Authorities say he didn’t disclose that he took two trips longer than a day outside the U.S. within the last five years, and he claimed a marriage to a U.S. citizen after divorcing and remarrying a Nigerian citizen.

Officials say he also falsely answered “no” to a question about if had committed or been involved in any criminal acts after he had been told “his banking activity was fraudulent and criminal.”


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